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Honoring the Uncle I Never Met on Memorial Day

service_flag_gold_star_theis

“We are a Gold Star Family.”

It was something I heard every May from my Grandma. It was a cursed blessing for her. She had immense pride that her brother, PFC Samuel J. Perri, died a hero in France in 1944 at the young age of 19.

But, alas he was her baby brother and the sacrifice of his life was at times overwhelmingly painful.

UncleSammy

My Grandma was a sweet yet sometimes combative woman. She always melted when speaking of her youngest brother, Sam. I remember in 2004, she was crying and said, “I can’t believe it’s been 60 years. It feels like it was just yesterday.”

My Great Grandmother took the news particularly hard. As the stereotypical Italian immigrant, she particularly favored her youngest son and put him high on a pedestal. She never recovered emotionally from losing him and died not too long after that from, “a broken heart,” as I was always told.

It’s interesting how many people are dismissive when I mention my great uncle’s sacrifice. They assume it really never affected me. I promise you that it has. I remember being eight years old and thinking that if Uncle Sam hadn’t been killed in France that he personally would have killed Hitler.

The uncle who died almost thirty years before I was born has always been larger than life in my mind.

Memorial Day to me is never about cookouts. It is never about a sale, which will save me $50 on a couch. And my Grandpa was adamant that it wasn’t Veteran’s Day.

It is a day to honor those, like my Uncle Sam, who gave absolutely everything so that we can have the freedoms that so many take for granted.

Every Memorial Day, we make the voyage to the cemetery to pay respects to Uncle Sam. It is something I have done my entire life. And now my children come with me. I never want them to forget the sacrifices that were made for our freedom.

Dane-Sammy

Until my Grandma passed away in 2010, she would often accompany us to the cemetery. My children got to witness the agony she experienced when she visited his grave. While I disliked the fact that they saw her cry, I appreciate the fact that they can acknowledge the sacrifice and see how raw the pain can still be decades and generations later because, we are a Gold Star Family.

How do you commemorate Memorial Day? Please comment below.

You can read a longer version of this story at Third Base Politics.

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